Wednesday, May 05, 2010

fatter and stupider

While this is NOT a funny topic, I thought this was a funny opening statement

"....watching television makes toddlers fatter and stupider....."

Watching TV 'makes toddlers less intelligent'

....Scientists who tracked the progress of pre-school children found that the more television they watched aged two-and- a-half the worse they were at mathematics, the more junk food they ate, and the more they were bullied by other pupils.

....The study found that for every extra hour of TV a week the two-year-olds watched there was a 6 per cent decrease in maths achievement (though not in reading), a 7 per cent decrease in classroom engagement, and a 10 per cent increase in "victimization" by peers, such as teasing, rejection and assault. Each extra hour also corresponded with 9 per cent less exercise, consumption of 10 per cent more snacks, and a 5 per cent rise in body mass index.

Most of these finding are pretty intuitively obvious. However, I was surprised by the correlation between television viewing patterns at two years old and being a target of a bully in the classroom years later. Is it more than just a weight issue (more tv means less activity, which means heavier kid, which means more likely to be targeted by a bully)?

Even the researchers were a bit surprised by the long-term negative effects of television watching in early childhood.

"Although we expected the impact of early TV viewing to disappear after seven-and-a-half years of childhood, the fact that negative outcomes remained is quite daunting.

...A New Zealand study which went up to the age of 26 demonstrated that childhood viewing was "significantly associated" with leaving school without qualifications, concluding that the link was clear regardless of early problems or socio-economic status.

I wonder how content effects this trend. My older children use tv or computer for a large percentage of our homeschool efforts. Of course, they aren't 2 years old, but I can't help but worry that this has a negative influence on older students as well.

I can also see a logical weakness in connecting television viewing at age 2 and later problems. Most likely, if a child watched that much television at a young age, that trend would continue through childhood and adolescence. Could it be that the negative outcomes are a result of the sum total of television viewing over childhood, and not just at one particular age or stage?

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TheTutor said...

I recently read an article (I can't find the one I read, but this one touches on some of the issues of that original article) raised the question: could the increase in bullying, especially in young children, be linked to increased TV viewing because of the increase in the number of TV programs aimed at children whose goal is to teach conflict resolution?

The theory was that in order to teach conflict resolution, these shows had to also model conflict to be resolved. The author found that the majority of the show's time (I think it was 75-95%) dealt with introducing and developing the conflict leaving only a few minutes at the end of the program (after many of the children had already lost interest in the program) modeling a resolution to the conflict. Rather than the shows providing these children with the means to resolve conflict, they were providing ideas for new ways to bully others and other negative behaviors.

Some shows spent the entire time setting up a conflict and never resolving it. The assumption being that an adult was watching the show with the child and would provide the needed discussion about the proper means of handling the situation presented in the show.

I wonder if the correlation being made between increased time = increased bullying, weight, educational sloth/ ignorance is an accurate one. I wonder if there is more of a correlation between increased screen time and decreased parental involvement. Could that be the real impetus behind the bullying, overeating, lack of exercise, and lack of academic dedication/ processing? I would be interested to learn if there is any difference in students with equal daily screen time but various degrees of parental involvement in the orchestration of that screen time.

TheTutor said...

Oops, I forgot the link to the article:

Janine Cate said...

Thanks for the link. You made some great points.

Rose said...

The Tutor makes a great point. This was also mentioned in the book Nurture Shock in one of the chapters, I forget which one. (Read the whole book it is great :)).

One other point--if a 2 year old is watching television, it isn't only about what is on the TV, the outcome for that child is also a product of what the child is not doing. Sitting in front of a string of shows--even educational ones--means not interacting directly with an adult. The reasons for that lack of interactions are probably varied, but when TV is the babysitter of choice and the closest thing to stability that a child knows, I would anticipate that such a child would have difficulties that are not necessarily a result of TV but a reflection of a lousy homelife (and the television viewing then compounds the negative effect).

Grizzly Mama said...

I have to join with the other commentors in questioning the overall parenting of a 2 year old who watches that much TV.

I'm surprised that the study didn't think to question that. It could be neglect that is causing the problems in these children later on in life.